Jess and I are leaving the Bahamas today. Over the past week, I have picked up several more bonefish as well as a small mutton snapper; however, the last bone I caught is the one that will stay with me. I hit the flats early morning at the mid point of an outgoing tide. The water was shallow enough to see tails but just deep enough to keep the bones from becoming super skittish. I was wading close to shore when 50 feet away I saw a large tail quickly break the surface, and then it instantly disappeared. I froze, continued to peer towards the surface disturbance, and then saw a small mud puff from a feeding fish. After one cast and a small strip of my size 4 bonefish scampi, I felt a strong tug and my reel was singing. The first run of this bone was the tell tale of a large fish. The fish had 3 more runs, and I landed him after a 15-minute fight. I was astonished when I landed him, measured him up using my fly rod, snapped a quick picture, and released him. (It is extremely hard taking a picture of a bonefish standing in the middle of a knee deep flat). He was around 32 inches long. Cross referencing Randal Kaufman’s Bonefishing!, he was estimated between 11-13lbs, which puts him into trophy category by anyone’s standards. It was the culmination of my bonefishing efforts over the past month. I wish the picture below did the fish more justice.
Our time in Green Turtle Cay was amazing. Jess and I felt that the people were welcoming, the food was excellent, and the bonefish were challenging. My next bonefish trip will more then likely be the typical several days on flats skiff with a guide; however, I will never forget my trials and tribulations, paying my dues on the flats, and learning through first hand experience. Special thanks to local fly fisher and bonefish guide, Ronnie Sawyer. He spent many nights tutoring me on strategy, fly design, and approach for his local waters and bonefish. It’s now off to the Adirondacks chasing good old fashion trout as well as a host of other warm water species!
I woke up really early and wanted to get some time on the flats before Jess got up. The skies were overcast and the wind was whipping, not the ideal conditions; however, I still wanted to get out and find some tails.
I went to the small section of the town flats that has some white sand. The sand would provide a little relief trying to spot cruising shadows. The low tide conditions would also allow tails to break the surface. I tied on a size 6 Mini Puff and went to work. Within 50 yards of the shore, I came across a pack of tailing bones. I fired off my first cast of the day, and it was too close for comfort. The pack of bones scattered in every direction. Luckily, within another 50 yards was another pack of tails. This time I took my time getting into an optimal position. The pack was working into the wind at the edge of the sand and the turtle grass. I paralleled them at 50 feet away making several casts to the edge of their group. One of my casts landed softly right into the middle of the pack, and I was convinced that it was going to spook the entire group. However, the pack continued to feed, I began to work my fly, and I felt the tug of a bonefish. A strong strip set started a great fight. After about 5 minutes I landed him, snapped a quick pic, and got my line reorganized. Upon immediately turning around, I saw around 20 bones cruising my way. I made one quick false cast, and my fly landed right in their path. The lead bone of the pack slightly spooked, but he calmed down and the entire pack kept coming towards my fly. Small twitches of the mini puff enticed a fish in the back of the pack. A nice run and the fish was ready to be landed. Both fish were in the 6-7lb class.
After I caught those two, all signs of bonefish were gone. I decided to wade back towards shore. I found one more bone tailing tight to the shore. I snuck my way into position and made several presentations into his vicinity; however, it was not meant to be, and I eventually spooked him. I was on the flats for about 90 minutes and decided it was time to head home. I went home to find Jess still sleeping. It was a great start to the day.
With a full moon tonight, the tides have been extremely exaggerated at both high and low. One might think to just walk further out to find the bones during extreme low tide; however, that is not the case. The bones I have been seeing are all in ankle deep water, and these are in the 7-10lb class. Sometimes, if you are looking into the glare, all you will see is a “torpedo” wake coming at you. The low tides have also allowed me to see more trails of mud from feeding bonefish. Today, I successfully followed several mud trails to tailing bonefish.
My first attempt to a tailing fish was refused. So was my second. I decided that my size 6 bonefish scampi was not doing the trick today. The night before I had tied up a fly designed for large and highly pressured bonefish, Doc Hall’s Tailing Shrimp. It’s a very simple pattern I tied in size 6. I decide to give it a go. I found another large tailing fish, and it took three separate presentations before the tailing bonefish noticed my fly. I saw him finally turn towards my twitching shrimp pattern, I dropped it, and the fish’s nose went into the turtle grass. I felt the tug, and a quick strip strike sent the bonefish off into a panic. The fish had 3 nice runs ranging from 50-100 yards. I knew this was bigger then my fist bonefish just by how long it took to land. After about 7 minutes, a nice 7-8lb bonefish was at hand. After I released the fish, it was only about 30 minutes until dead low tied and I didn’t see any more mud trails or tails poking through the surface. It was a great morning of stalking the flats and I can’t wait to do it tomorrow!
Good luck to the rest of the MKFF crew going down to Sanibel Island!